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1982 Lebanon Invasion: Operation Peace for Galilee

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1982 Lebanon Invasion: Operation Peace for Galilee

Siege Of Beirut

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Siege Of Beirut

By George W. Gawrych

But was it a siege when most civilians could come and go between artillery rounds?
- Robert Fisk, reporter[1]

The siege of Beirut turned into the single most intensely televised and reported war in living memory. Journalists were able to operate on both sides of the encounter and thus produce vast quantities of uniquely synoptic material every day.
- Avner Yaniv[2]

In invading Lebanon on 6 June 1982, Israel sought to deal a major blow to the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), an umbrella organization that included all Palestinian resistance groups opposed to the Israeli state. The 1982 campaign into Lebanon drew the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) into an unanticipated siege of Beirut. Despite detailed coverage by the international media of the human suffering in the city, the Israeli coalition government persevered in maintaining pressure on the Lebanese capital for seventy days without resorting to a full-scale ground assault. The siege turned into a saga of Israeli bombardment from the air, land, and sea, with limited ground attacks into the city. In the end, Israel forced the PLO to evacuate its political leadership and fighters from Beirut to other Arab countries. The Israeli success resulted from a combination of Israeli military and economic pressures and American diplomacy.


By 1982, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin, Defense Minister Ariel Sharon, and Chief of the General Staff Lieutenant General Raful Eitan were all determined to remove the PLO threat from Lebanon. In the 1970s, the PLO had established it headquarters in west Beirut and had turned most of southern Lebanon into a mini Palestinian state, popularly known as Fatahland. Israel viewed Fatahland as a serious threat, in that Palestinian resistance groups used it as a base for launching artillery shells and guerrilla operations into Israel’s northern region of Galilee.

PLO strength derived, in large measure, from Lebanon’s weakness. In 1975, the Lebanese civil war broke out, fragmenting the country into numerous fiefdoms headed by heads of various Lebanese confessional groups. The central government had no power in the face of warlords with their own militias. In 1976, Syria, given its own political and territorial ambitions in Lebanon, had taken advantage of the internecine strife to occupy large parts of the country, including the important Bekaa Valley. An election for a new president was scheduled for August 1982, and, under the terms of a decades-old agreement, the holder of that office had to be a Maronite Christian. Christians constituted 40 percent of Lebanon’s three million people; Muslims and Druze formed 60 percent. Much of the political power resided in the Maronite and, to a lesser extent, the Sunni Muslim communities.

In response to the emerging Palestinian threat, Israel had slowly and clandestinely developed close ties with the Phalangists, the most powerful political party and military organization in the Maronite community. Pierre Gemayel, the patriarch of the Gemayel family, headed the Phalange Party but left control of the militia to his son Bashir. The Phalange Party opposed the PLO’s presence in Lebanon, and Phalange militiamen had fought Palestinian guerrillas on numerous occasions. Consequently, Israel and the Phalange found a common interest in wanting the destruction of Fatahland and Syria’s withdrawal from the country.

Bashir Gemayel was a rising political figure in Lebanon. A charismatic and ruthless individual, he was slowly positioning himself to be elected as Lebanon’s new Maronite president. Begin and Sharon came to view the Phalange as an instrument for furthering Israel’s security interests on its northern border. During the first half of 1982, both men held a number of secret meetings with Bashir in the hope of forging an Israeli-Lebanese Christian alliance against the PLO and the Syrian presence in Lebanon. Apparently, throughout his discussions with Israeli officials, Bashir welcomed Israel’s support but avoided committing to military cooperation.[3]

In the meantime, Begin and Sharon also sought a pretext for launching a major invasion against the Palestinian threat in southern Lebanon. An assassination attempt against the Israeli ambassador in London, Shlomo Argov, on 3 June 1982 provided them the opportunity they were looking for. In a shrewd calculation, Begin limited Israel’s immediate response to airstrikes, and on 4 June, Israeli planes bombed PLO targets in Beirut and southern Lebanon. In particular, the Israeli air force pulverized the PLO’s munitions depot in Beirut’s sports stadium. Now, Begin and Sharon fully expected the PLO to retaliate by shelling Israel’s northern settlements. When the Palestinians did in fact fire back with artillery rounds, they fell right into the Israeli trap. Late on 5 June, the Israeli cabinet used the Palestinian retaliation as the sought after pretext for approving a land campaign into Lebanon.

The Israeli cabinet named the operation Peace for Galilee. A secondary objective was to sign a peace treaty with Lebanon. The main objective was to “place all the civilian population of the Galilee beyond the range of the terrorist fire from Lebanon, by attacking them [the Palestinian guerrillas], their bases, and their headquarters.”[4] At the cabinet meeting, Sharon assured his fellow ministers that the campaign plan limited ground operations to forty kilometers, thus leaving Beirut outside of the area of operations.[5] In his directive to the armed forces, however, the defense minister ordered the IDF to be prepared to execute a junction with Lebanese Christian militia near Beirut within 96 hours of the operation’s commencement.[6]

Suspicious of Sharon’s sincerity and concerned about possible Syrian intervention, the cabinet decided to monitor the campaign closely, thus leaving any military escalation subject to its approval. Begin told the ministers that “the cabinet will meet daily and make decisions according to the evolving situation.”[7] Such political supervision of tactical events would prove unprecedented in modern Israeli history. As Sharon noted, “For the first time in all of Israel’s war experience, cabinet meetings were held every day and sometimes twice a day. For the first time the government set specific goals for the army on an ongoing basis.”[8] To address the cabinet’s daily scrutiny, Sharon appointed a brigadier general as permanent liaison to the cabinet, and all the ministers received a special defense ministry phone number that they could dial at any time for “updates or clarification.”[9] Daily cabinet supervision of the campaign would directly affect the conduct of the siege of Beirut.

In this war, unlike any other in the Arab-Israeli conflict, “Israel’s advantage was absolute in every category.”[10] The IDF committed 75,000 troops, 1,250 tanks (including the highly prized Israeli-made Merkava), and 1,500 armored personnel carriers organized into four independent divisions, an amphibious brigade, a two-division corps, and a reserve division. The Lebanese Army of 23,000 regulars was a non-player, remaining neutral throughout the campaign. The main forces facing the Israelis were 30,000 Syrian troops and 20,000 Palestinian fighters. The Syrians, deployed mainly in the Bekaa Valley and along the Beirut to Damascus Highway, sported some 600 tanks (the older Soviet-made T-54s and T-62s) and 300 artillery pieces and antitank guns. For their part, the Palestinians counted 100 T-34 tanks, 100 artillery tubes, and 60 rocket launchers mounted on trucks.[11] The IDF thus possessed a clear numerical superiority in troops and weapons for an initial advance of only forty kilometers, anticipated to take two days to reach the Awali River and the southern tip of the Bekaa Valley. Few Syrian troops were located in this area. Therefore, the PLO presented the main military obstacle in southern Lebanon.

On 6 June at 1100, the IDF launched Operation Peace for Galilee. Despite a marked superiority in troops and weaponry, the Israeli Army fell behind its timetable as friction and Palestinian resistance proved more formidable forces than expected. Advance units had expected to go forty kilometers within 48 hours, but failed to do so. Moreover, this goal of forty kilometers itself quickly emerged as a matter of controversy. In a letter on June 6 to U.S. President Ronald Reagan, the Israeli prime minister indicated that the military operation would be limited to forty kilometers. Two days later, on 8 June, Begin went public and informed the Israeli parliament of this territorial limitation. The announcement surprised the IDF. No one had heard of such a restriction. Major General Amir Drori, the commander of the invading troops, later stated that he first learned of the forty-kilometer limit from the media.[12] Another Israeli general put it differently: “The prevailing understanding among the senior officer cadre of the IDF [was a] prompt penetration into the depth of Lebanese territory all the way to Beirut.”[13] Sharon had failed to inform the IDF of any territorial limitation.

In the five days that followed Begin’s announcement of 8 June, Sharon did everything he could to gain approval for tactical moves that inched the IDF to an encirclement of Beirut. The resultant piecemeal movements aggravated the question in the IDF concerning the final objectives of the campaign. Meanwhile, confusion started to grow in both the cabinet and the public when military operations began to exceed the publicly stated forty-kilometer limit. Finally, on 13 June, fully one week after the commencement of the war, Israeli units linked-up with the Phalange forces at the Presidential Palace in Baabda. Beirut lay in full view in the valley below.

The City

In 1982, Beirut was but a shell of its former splendor. By the 1960s, the city had gained the deserved reputation as the Paris of the Middle East. Palm trees and outdoor cafes lined the main thoroughfares. Suqs (marketplaces and shopping centers) attracted wealthy tourists from the Middle East and Europe. Sun worshippers could bask on its lovely beaches under the shadow of luxurious hotels, while skiers came down the slopes on the mountains overlooking the city. In addition to offering the fine pleasures of life, Beirut served as a financial, educational, and cultural center for the Arab world. Rue de Banques was rumored to possess half the Arab wealth. American University and St. Joseph University were both prestigious institutions of higher learning, attracting students from the Arab elites in the entire Middle East. The press was relatively free, and many Arabs could print their ideas in the publishing houses of the city.

Unfortunately, the Lebanese Civil War, begun in 1975, dramatically changed the city’s quality of life. War brought much destruction and left a divided capital, one part primarily Christian, the other primarily Muslim. The Maronite Christian family of the Gemayels controlled east Beirut, collecting taxes and providing many basic services. Lebanese Muslims and the PLO dominated west Beirut. The Green Line—a narrow patch of trees, bushes, and earthen works stretching for some ten miles—separated the two parts, in effect acting as a moat. Three crossing sites along the Green Line connected west and east Beirut. West Beirut showed evidence of the civil war more than its Christian counterpart. Entire streets lacked any intact buildings; many families lived in war-damaged structures.

In 1982, Beirut and its suburbs sported a population of over 1,000,000. West Beirut was the newer section of the city, containing some 600,000 residents and 25,000 buildings squeezed into an area of ten square miles. The port area still contained elegant beachfront hotels. American University and most Western embassies, including that of the United States, were located here as well. South of the port area stood Corniche Mazraa with its business district. Here, high-rise buildings served as offices, apartments, or hotels. Built mainly in the post 1950s, these buildings used glass extensively. Hamra Street served as the commercial heart of the Muslim sector.

Adjacent to Corniche Mazraa was the Fakhani district where the PLO had established its headquarters. A few buildings rose to fourteen stories, but the construction was generally of lower quality than that in Corniche Mazraa. Fakhani contained a sports stadium that the PLO had converted into a major ammunition depot and a recruiting and training center. Fakhani, as well as the Sabra and Shatilla camps to its south, contained many Palestinian refugees who lived in one-story buildings with no foundation and only one or two rooms. Streets were very often too narrow for large military vehicles. Finally, the southernmost area contained the large refugee camp of Burj al-Barajinah, the Shiite slums, and Beirut International Airport. Here, the terrain was flat and sandy.

The PLO had turned west Beirut into a Palestinian capital in exile, therefore a strategic center of gravity for the IDF’s targeting. In anticipation of an Israeli invasion or a major flare up in the Lebanese Civil War, the PLO headquarters had constructed three levels underground. West Beirut had also become home to many Palestinian bourgeoisie, some of whom had obtained Lebanese citizenship. The vast majority of the city’s 200,000 Palestinians, however, were poor and concentrated in three major Palestinian refugee camps mentioned above. Essentially, west Beirut was divided into two parts, a Lebanese sector in the north and a Shiite and Palestinian part in the south.

Geography gave the Israeli invader two advantages. Mountains in the east, southeast, and south, some rising to over 6,000 feet, overlooked Beirut and provided excellent observation and artillery positions. Moreover, the Palestinians were concentrated in the southern area where the terrain was more open. The IDF could thus concentrate its bombing on Fakhani and the three refugee camps without placing the majority of the Lebanese inhabitants at great risk, at least in theory.

Opposing Forces

The siege of Beirut involved at least ten separate armed forces, each fighting for its own interest. Figures vary considerably as to the size of the various militia groups, for in siege warfare, civilians often function as combatants. At the beginning of the war, the PLO had some 3,000 fulltime fighters in west Beirut. This force increased as Palestinians fled southern Lebanon in the face of advancing Israeli forces. By 13 June, there were over 16,000 Arab fighters in the city. These included 12,000 Palestinian forces, 2,000 Lebanese militiamen, and 2,300 Syrian troops. Syria controlled several thousand of the Palestinian forces. Together, the fighting groups in west Beirut formed a “plethora of competing organizations,” devoid of unity of command.[14] Each group fought its own battle with a minimum of coordination with other groups.

The PLO itself was an umbrella organization for a number of different Palestinian groups. Yasser Arafat was the Chairman of the PLO Executive Committee as well as the Commander in Chief of all PLO military forces. He also directly controlled Fatah, the largest group. In addition to Fatah, whose strength inside the city had grown to 8,000 fighters, at least four other Palestinian organizations were in west Beirut: the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, and al-Saiqa controlled by Damascus. The Palestinian fighters concentrated on protecting the PLO headquarters and the three refugee camps of Sabra, Shatilla, and Burj al-Barajinah. The PLO relied on some forty T-34 tanks, a few dozen DM-2 scout cars, fifty to seventy obsolete antiair guns, and twenty BM-21 Katyusha Multiple Rocket Launchers. Lebanese Muslims divided into two main groups, the leftist Sunni Murabitun and the Shiite Amal. Each Lebanese militia had fewer than 1,000 fighters in the city. The Murabitun defended the port area and National Museum crossing, while Amal concentrated its forces on protecting the Shiite slum areas in the south. A small Druze contingent guarded the port area.[15]

To exert its interest in the city, Syria had stationed its 85th Mechanized Infantry Brigade in west Beirut as well. Comprising some 2,300 men, the brigade possessed thirty to forty T-54/55 tanks, armored personnel carriers, D-30 122mm howitzers, 82mm mortars, Katyushas, 130mm field artillery, and 57mm antiair guns. The Syrians deployed in the southern parts of west Beirut, an area relatively open and hence good defensive terrain for Syrian tanks. They also guarded the area around the Soviet embassy. The Syrian brigade, however, had suffered heavy damage south of the airport fighting Israeli units advancing from the coastal road toward the Beirut to Damascus highway.[16]

By the time of Operation Peace for Galilee, the PLO had prepared underground bunkers and tunnels in anticipation of an Israeli invasion. It had stockpiled arms, fuel, food, and medicine. In 1981, the Palestinians had also begun constructing a number of secret emergency command posts.[17] These prewar preparations paid dividends for the besieged fighters. As noted by a Western reporter in Beirut during the siege, “the PLO suffered no serious shortages. Their generators could be heard roaring away during the night.”[18] Civilians suffered from want, but the fighters not as much.

East Beirut fell under the control of the Gemayels, a Christian Maronite family. Bashir Gemayel commanded a militia force of 8,000 fighters called the Lebanese Forces (LF). Between 1975 and 1982, the IDF had trained some 250 LF officers and 1,000 NCOs in Israel. The LF was a paramilitary force, organized on paper into companies and battalions but employed more at the platoon and squad levels. Essentially a light force sporting M16s and AK47s, Bashir’s militiamen possessed a small number of T-54/55 tanks, Katyushas, and artillery pieces.[19] During the Israeli siege, the LF provided indirect support: blocking northern and northeastern approaches to west Beirut, manning checkpoints along the Green Line, and offering intelligence to the Israelis. Despite this assistance, Bashir proved a poor ally for Israel because he refused Israel’s demand to commit his forces to capture west Beirut.

The siege of west Beirut thus fell squarely on the shoulders of the IDF. All three services—army, air force, and navy—participated in the attempt to pound the Palestinian defenders into submission. Israeli ground forces stood between 35,000 to 50,000 with 400 tanks and over a hundred heavy artillery pieces, including 105mm, 155mm, and 175mm cannons.[20] The navy committed most of its small fleet to a blockade and provided naval gunfire as needed. The air force conducted thousands of sorties. The IDF clearly possessed a marked numerical advantage in men and equipment for the siege of Beirut.

Israeli Doctrine

In undertaking its siege, “the IDF was in uncharted waters, both doctrinally and in terms of what they had planned for before the invasion.”[21] Certainly, the army had had some experience in urban warfare in previous wars. But, in 1982, the Israeli Army faced a seemingly formidable challenge: an Arab capital with a million inhabitants. The IDF’s previous urban battles paled before the siege of Beirut.

At the operational level, IDF doctrine for urban warfare stressed that “cities should be encircled before anything else.”[22] At the tactical level, the IDF had refined its tactical doctrine and stepped up its training program for urban warfare, based in large measure on the battle for Suez City in the 1973 war. Israeli UO doctrine called for armor to lead or to support infantry. The army favored the use of tanks in urban warfare because the tank afforded both firepower and protection, and the IDF placed a premium on minimizing casualties in war. Unfortunately for Israel, the emphasis on armor in the IDF force structure left the army with a shortage of qualified infantry for a major urban operation. Regular infantry received adequate preparation, but reservists generally gained limited training for UO in their refresher courses. As a result, reserve infantry suffered greater casualties in the war. Training exercises prior to operations helped alleviate some deficiencies.

Doctrine emphasized the use of combined arms in city fighting. Tank units were trained to task organize with other combat arms for battle. Thus, Israeli UO doctrine stressed flexibility in force design. Generally, when employed in an attack, tanks fought under infantry command. The infantry commander was expected to be in the lead tank, where he could focus on navigation while the crew fought the battle. Artillery observers accompanied troops to help provide timely fire support. Whenever appropriate, doctrine writers encouraged the use of loudspeakers to convince civilians to leave the targeted area. Moreover, patrols were encouraged to find civilians willing to provide information and help guide troops through the maze of streets to their objectives.[23]

A Missed Opportunity?

The link-up between Israeli and Phalange forces on 13 June signified the encirclement of west Beirut. That same day, Sharon met with Bashir Gemayel expecting that the Lebanese warlord would seize west Beirut with his own forces, supported by the IDF. What transpired should have been no surprise to Sharon. Bashir again backed away from such military cooperation with Israel. He was maneuvering to be elected as Lebanon’s next president, the election scheduled in August.

Though the Israelis had helped him a great deal, Bashir Gemayel stressed that he needed time to build bridges to the United States and mend fences with the various Muslim groups.[24] Clearly, the Lebanese warlord wanted to avoid the appearance of doing Israel’s dirty work of clearing the Palestinians out of Beirut. Such an image would seriously damage his credibility with the Lebanese people, and he was determined to be president of all Lebanon.

Apparently at this juncture in the war, the IDF missed a golden opportunity to capture west Beirut in quick order. A Western reporter inside Beirut at the time observed how “the sheer speed and depth of the mass Israeli invasion stunned both the Palestinians and the Syrians.”[25] In interviews conducted after the war, a number of Palestinians depicted the Arab forces in the city as “demoralized, dispirited, and panic-stricken as a result of the crushing defeat they had suffered in the previous week.”[26] In fact, “The key [for the IDF] lay in the ability of its troops in the field to win a rapid, indisputable, and psychologically overwhelmingly triumph.”[27] On 12 June, Arafat had already expressed a desire for a cease-fire between Israel and the PLO in the hope of gaining valuable time.

Political considerations, not military possibilities, weighed heavily on Begin and Sharon in assessing their next move. Both men wanted to remove the PLO from Lebanon, which meant destroying its center of gravity in Beirut. They had hoped that Bashir Gemayel would take the lead in securing west Beirut, but that had proved to be wishful thinking. Occupying west Beirut would represent a major military escalation in the war. Such a move definitely required cabinet approval, and the majority of the ministers opposed such an attack, expressing concern over Israeli casualties and the strategic ramifications of escalating the conflict with an assault on an Arab capital.[28] Moreover, Sharon and Begin were fully aware of the public’s abiding concern about casualties. Urban fighting would certainly have increased Israeli losses. Israel had already suffered 214 killed, 1,176 wounded, and 23 MIA.[29] Finally, Begin had informed the Israeli parliament publicly and President Reagan privately that Israel was limiting its operation to forty kilometers. Beirut clearly lay outside this geographical limit.

Rather than seek cabinet approval for a forced entry, Sharon decided to strengthen his position around west Beirut. He admitted in his memoirs to being “intent on achieving the strongest position we could” in this phase of the war.[30] The immediate military objective became pushing the Syrians out of positions in the surrounding hills and along the Damascus to Beirut highway. The IDF spent the next thirteen days fighting in the hills east of Beirut. By 26 June, the IDF controlled 22 kilometers of the strategic highway. While maintaining its hold around west Beirut, the IDF periodically shelled the Lebanese capital, mainly with artillery.

In response to Sharon’s encirclement of Beirut, the Israeli cabinet changed the objectives of Operation Peace for Galilee. Instead of placing the civilian population of Galilee out of artillery range, Israel now demanded the departure of all Palestinian fighters and Syrian troops from Beirut. The Lebanese Army would enter west Beirut to accept arms from the PLO fighters, who in turn would leave without their weapons. In contrast to its demands on the PLO in Beirut, Israel offered a different arrangement to the Syrians. The Syrian brigade could depart the city, fully armed and with assurances of safe passage. Damascus nixed this offer. Clearly, at this point in the war, military operations were driving policy. Sharon’s decision to secure the hills surrounding Beirut altered the strategic and tactical situation significantly. The cabinet now found itself widening the war’s objectives in response to Sharon’s military escalation.

Arafat rejected Israel’s demand to leave the city with his organization and decided to bide his time. Meanwhile, Arab forces in west Beirut took advantage of the Israeli delay in assaulting the city by frantically fortifying their own positions. “They mined the southern approaches to the city, booby-trapped junctions, placed explosives in buildings so that they could be blown up to collapse on advancing forces, dug trenches, and fortified bunkers.”[31] Eventually, a system of strong points and barricades guarded all possible avenues of entry into the city.

While strengthening defenses around the city, Arafat and other Palestinian leaders began making extravagant claims: “We are ready for this battle, which will be . . . the Stalingrad of the Arabs.”[32] Increasing numbers of defenders took heart. Brigadier General Abu al-Walid, the PLO chief of military operations, reversed his earlier pessimistic assessment. On 13 June, the retired colonel from the Jordanian Army saw the Palestinian situation militarily hopeless. By the end of month, however, he could boast of defensible positions ringing west Beirut. More important perhaps, the passage of time indicated to many Palestinian fighters that Israel lacked the will for heavy casualties associated with urban warfare.[33]

In addition to strengthening Palestinian resolve, the Israeli delay in attacking west Beirut offered Arafat an opportunity for an honorable end to the siege. The PLO leader concluded that Israel had little stomach for city fighting. Attrition and time together might work to the Palestinian advantage. Israel could tire of a long siege with its concomitant high casualties. Moreover, the international media would certainly expose the suffering of civilians, especially of children, women, and the elderly. Arafat expected to appeal to Western conscience in this regard: “In being beleaguered in Beirut, I am imposing a moral siege on all capitals.”[34] Arafat seemed to hope that the PLO might end up maintaining a political presence in Beirut, with or without a small militia force.

Strategic Context

After securing control around Beirut, Sharon was ready at the beginning of July to tackle the city directly. The cabinet, however, remained opposed to a major ground assault on west Beirut. Cabinet members expressed concern over the international repercussions from such an escalation and over the anticipated loss of Israeli soldiers from urban combat. Sharon would thus have to rely on general bombardments and limited ground operations designed to pressure the PLO into agreeing to depart Beirut.

The Israeli domestic front remained generally supportive of the Begin government during the siege. However, public approval for the war did drop from 93.3 per cent at the onset of Operation Peace for Galilee to 66 per cent within the first month.[35] Though a significant drop, domestic support remained sufficiently strong throughout the length of the siege, despite sporadic antiwar rallies in the streets of Israeli cities. Counter-marches took place as well. In fact, most of Israel stood behind the government in the war.

Polls showed both Begin and Sharon gaining in popularity during this period. Begin saw his approval rating rise from 47.7 percent at the beginning of June to 57.6 in July; Sharon witnessed an increase from 48.9 to 59.6 percent. And the main opposition party backed the government in the war. Both Shimon Peres and Yitzak Rabin, the heads of the Labor Party, offered only mild criticism and neither called for an end to the siege of Beirut.[36] Israeli politicians and the public were thus willing to accept Arab civilian casualties in the fight against the PLO, an organization perceived as a threat to the Jewish state. Consequently, the IDF had the time it needed to force the PLO’s withdrawal from west Beirut.

On the diplomatic front, the U.S. remained essentially a steady ally of Israel during the siege. Some friction existed between the two countries, however. Washington sought a quick end to the invasion and generally pushed to reduce the level of violence, especially during the siege of Beirut. Although at times critical of Israel for inflicting suffering on civilians, the Reagan administration avoided any direct confrontation with Israel over Lebanon. In the end, Washington used its diplomatic offices to help negotiate a PLO withdrawal from west Beirut. Israel could thus claim a military victory over the PLO.

Desirous of a speedy end to the war, the Reagan administration relied on Ambassador Philip C. Habib as its special envoy to seek a diplomatic solution. Habib, a Lebanese-American career diplomat, faced numerous problems. During negotiations, Arafat played for time, hoping to avert a political disaster. Moreover, because the U.S. refused to recognize the PLO, Habib had to negotiate with Arafat through intermediaries, primarily Sunni Prime Minister Shafik al-Wazzan and Saeb Salem, a former holder of the office. Complicating matters, both Wazzan and Salem lived in west Beirut and declined to leave their part of the city. Consequently, Habib had to deal with both men mainly by phone. The wheels of diplomacy moved very slowly in this strategic environment.

Since Israel’s establishment in 1948, Palestinians have generally came to view Arab states as wanting in their support of the Palestinian plight, especially during crises. It was no different in 1982. Conservative states led by Saudi Arabia preferred quiet diplomacy and avoided directly challenging U.S. support for Israel. Arafat had strained relations with Hafiz al-Asad, the Syrian president. Asad wanted to control the PLO, and Arafat stood in his way. Egypt offered general support to the Palestinians but refused to sever diplomatic relations with Israel.[37] Habib, for his part, experienced difficulty gaining quick and full cooperation of Arab states to accept the PLO fighters from Beirut. No Arab state was eager to offer to accept all the Palestinian fighters, especially before Arafat agreed to depart the city.

Finally, the Palestinians were essentially strangers in Lebanon, and the PLO had overstayed its welcome in the country. Many Lebanese initially welcomed the Israeli invasion in the hope that the Israelis might dismantle the Palestinian mini-state in the country. In a similar vein, Lebanese Muslims in Beirut wanted to keep their city from becoming an Arab Stalingrad. The PLO had to show some sensitivity to the suffering of the Lebanese people. In this light, on 2 July, Arafat promised the Muslim Lebanese leadership of west Beirut that the PLO would do everything to spare the city death and destruction.[38] It took six weeks to fulfill that pledge. Meanwhile, the IDF slowly laid waste to west Beirut.

Battle for Beirut

At the beginning of July, the IDF shifted its main focus to Beirut and away from the hills surrounding it.[39] Before any major military move, Israel first warned the PLO and the civilian population of an impending attack on the city. The Begin government also softened its earlier position and announced that the Palestinian fighters could leave with their light weapons. At dusk on 1 July, Israeli aircraft suddenly swooped down on the city in mock bombing runs, making loud noise and lighting the sky with flares. Meanwhile, Israel’s Arabic-speaking radio encouraged civilians to flee the city before the military attacks. The next day, the IDF command confidently announced its readiness for an assault on the city.

On 3 July, the IDF tightened its economic blockade. A force of some 200 tanks moved from east Beirut and quickly secured the Green Line separating the Christian and Muslim parts of Beirut. Now Israeli soldiers and LF militiamen at checkpoints stopped all but essential personnel (doctors or policemen, for example) from entering west Beirut. The IDF also shut off all fuel, food, and water into the city. This situation lasted until 7 July when the Reagan administration convinced the Begin government to rescind its order for a brief period.

While Sharon ordered artillery to pound Palestinian sections of west Beirut, the Israeli air force limited its operations to fake bombing raids and dropping flares and leaflets. Meanwhile, on the ground, a column of armor and infantry advanced toward the Burj el-Barajinah refugee camp in the southern part of the city. After a heavy firefight, this force managed to gain only a shallow penetration, but deep enough to signal Israel’s firm resolve to defeat the PLO. On 8 July, the Israeli high command stressed the army’s willingness to conduct the siege through the winter if necessary.

The next two weeks saw the PLO and IDF conduct artillery duels. These were mostly one-way exchanges, as the Palestinians had to husband their ammunition wisely if they wanted to prolong the siege as long as possible. On a number of occasions, the Palestinians directed their fire into east Beirut to disrupt the otherwise tranquil life there. Israel, for its part, maintained a steady military pressure on west Beirut. One Israeli officer underscored the need for a regular bombardment: "If a city is supposed to be under siege and nothing happens, they will start doing their laundry and making coffee."[40] Artillery shelling took place almost on a daily basis.

Then on 21 July, the IDF escalated its bombing campaign. According to Israel, the Palestinians launched several raids into Israeli positions killing five IDF soldiers. Israel used the Palestinian action to justify a major attack on west Beirut. For the first time since 25 June, the air force launched a major strike. Residents in Beirut experienced ninety minutes of intense shelling by the air force, artillery, and tanks.[41] The following period from 22 to 30 July saw Israel increase its air strikes, artillery shelling, and naval gunfire.

At the end of July, Sharon decided to complement the bombardment of west Beirut with ground attacks designed to tighten the noose around the PLO headquarters and the Palestinian camps.[42] He seemed determined to force a military resolution to the PLO’s withdrawal from the Lebanese capital rather than see a diplomatic one under American auspices. The new strategy began on 31 July with a prolonged bombardment of the city. Then on 1 August at 0300, a task force of Israeli infantry, paratroopers, and tanks launched an attack in the south and captured Beirut International Airport by the end of the day. During daylight hours, the IDF pounded west Beirut for fourteen straight hours with air, naval, and artillery bombardment. As ground troops consolidated their gains, the IDF continued a bombardment of west Beirut for two more days.

Then, on 4 August, Sharon launched the war’s largest ground operation against the city. Beirut residents now experienced twenty straight hours of shelling, as the IDF conducted a general bombing attack that day. Israeli gunboats blasted the entire shoreline from the hotel district in the north to Ouzai in the south. Planes and artillery struck other areas of west Beirut. Especially hard hit were the refugee camps and the Fakhani district. No place, however, appeared safe, as every civilian seemed to have been in close proximity to an exploding shell.

The attack of 4 August inflicted significant damage on west Beirut. Shells had hit many of the city’s most important landmarks and institutions. Among the damaged buildings were the American University Hospital, the prime minister’s building, the Central Bank, the ministry of information, the offices of Newsweek and United Press International, and the two luxury hotels housing foreign journalists. Residential areas also experienced damage. To increase suffering on the civilian population, the IDF maintained a blockade of water, electricity, and fuel, so much so that American University Hospital appealed on the radio for diesel fuel to help doctors and staff treat the many wounded. Unable to inflict serious damage on the IDF, the Arab defenders fired rockets and artillery into Christian east Beirut, leaving many streets temporarily deserted. Sections of the business district gained the appearance of a ghost town for a brief period.

Sharon launched a ground operation in conjunction with the bombing campaign. On the eastern front, Israeli forces crossed into west Beirut at the three checkpoints on the Green Line. The main effort appeared to take place at the Museum Crossing in the direction of the PLO headquarters in Fakhani. Here, engineers and bulldozers led the way for tanks, infantry, and paratroopers, clearing barricades and other barriers set up on the streets. The fighting proved quite difficult, often house-to-house, but the IDF managed to capture the National Museum and the Hippodrome. Heavy Palestinian resistance prevented the Israelis from severing the Fakhani district from northern sections of the west Beirut.

Meanwhile, on the southern front, the IDF launched attacks in two areas. One thrust headed north along the coast and captured a number of PLO strong points in Ouzai. The Israelis managed to advance a kilometer or so before Palestinian fighters stopped their advance. A second attack fanned out from Beirut International Airport and headed northeast, managing to drive a wedge between Palestinian positions in Ouzai and Burj al-Barajinah camp. By this time, however, most of the 80,000 or so residents of Burj al-Barajinah had fled to Fakhani district or the Sabra and Shatilla camps, leaving a sparsely populated slum area. Both Israeli attacks made limited progress. Arab defenders relied mainly on RPGs, machine guns, and 130mm artillery guns to stop the Israelis.

By the end of 4 August, the Israeli Army had established positions closer to the three refugee camps and the PLO headquarters. But that day would prove the costliest twenty-four hours of the siege for the IDF. Israel suffered 19 killed and 64 wounded. On the diplomatic front, the ground assault temporarily stalled negotiations led by Habib and therefore drew sharp criticism from Washington for Israel escalating the battle at a time when negotiations were seemingly bringing some progress. Socially, the attack on 4 August caused more civilians to abandon the city, upwards of 6,000 per day for the next week according to some accounts.

Time was clearly running out for the PLO at the beginning of August. The IDF had begun to demonstrate its willingness to use ground forces to squeeze and defeat the Palestinians. Moreover, Israel’s bombardment was becoming more widespread, threatening to level Lebanese sections of west Beirut. Diplomatically, the PLO was essentially isolated, under pressure from Washington and with largely ineffective support from the Arab world. Virtually every PLO leader realized that there remained little if any hope for better terms.[43] So on 6 August, Arafat agreed to evacuate, albeit with minor reservations. Israel received the document on 9 August. On 11 August, the Israeli cabinet offered its approval in principle but expressed its own concerns over a number of details. A military surprise awaited the politicians and the diplomats.

On 12 August, in spite of diplomatic progress under American sponsorship, Sharon ordered, without cabinet approval, the IDF to launch its most massive bombardment of the city. The aerial assault lasted from 0600 to 1700, a day that became known as “Black Thursday.” Targeting focused on the refugee camps and the area around PLO headquarters. At the end of the day, losses stood 128 killed and 400 wounded, mainly civilians. Sharon apparently had wanted military pressure to convince Arafat to accept the American-sponsored evacuation plan. In this way, Israel could claim its military had clearly defeated the PLO.

When challenged by the cabinet to explain his independent action, Sharon tried to justify the attack by claiming that PLO artillery fire had killed 2 and wounded 77 Israeli soldiers the day before. Unconvinced by this explanation, the cabinet stripped Sharon of all authority to order military operations. Any air force or ground attacks now required the approval of the prime minister in the event the cabinet was unable to meet.[44]

The American administration, for its part, was also very upset with Sharon. Washington felt his action had undermined the diplomatic effort, and Reagan, affected by new images on television and in the newspapers of innocent women and children killed or wounded, personally called Begin to express outrage and demand a cessation to the shelling and bombing. That night, 12-13 August, Arafat did drop his last demands and agreed to evacuate Beirut. By this time, Habib had lined up seven Arab states to receive the Palestinian fighters. For the next five days, diplomats labored feverishly to work out the final details for the PLO’s departure.

Finally, on 19 August, Israel offered its consent to the evacuation plan. The PLO would withdrawal under the protection of a Multi-National Force (MFN) comprising 800 U.S. Marines, 800 French, and 400 Italian troops. An advance contingent of 350 French troops arrived on 21 August. That day, the first 395 Palestinian fighters boarded ships and departed Beirut. On 30 August, with much fanfare, Arafat sailed off on a ship destined for Greece. The Palestinian exodus ended on 3 September. Counts of the number of evacuees vary slightly, from 14,614 to 14,656.[45] These fighters left Beirut with guns blazing in the air in defiance.

Lebanese sources placed the official toll of dead in Beirut at 6,776. This figure included those victims of the 4 June bombing, two days before the actual commencement of Operation Peace for Galilee. Lebanese police claimed that civilians accounted for 84 percent of the fatalities. This figure squares with the estimate of 80 percent often cited by international doctors who had served in Beirut during the siege. Of the 1,100 combatants among the killed, Palestinians accounted for 45.6 per cent, Lebanese 37.2 percent, Syrians 10.1 percent, and other nationalities 7.1 percent of the total.[46] The IDF lost 88 killed and 750 wounded in the battle for Beirut. Total IDF losses up to this point in the war stood at 344 soldiers killed and over 2,000 wounded. Beirut thus accounted for 23 percent of Israeli killed and 32 per cent of the wounded for Operation Peace for Galilee.[47]

Though the siege had officially ended on 21 August, the story of violence in west Beirut had not. Bashir Gemayel was elected president on 23 August, only to be assassinated on 14 September. The IDF used his assassination as an excuse to enter west Beirut and destroy elements of the Palestinian infrastructure in the city. Sharon also permitted units of Bashir’s militia to move into the refugee camps of Sabra and Shatilla, where Phalange fighters, clearly intent on revenge for the loss of their leader, massacred innocent civilians from 16-18 September. Political repercussions were felt in Washington and Tel Aviv. Reagan, having guaranteed the safety of Palestinian civilians, now ordered the Marines back into west Beirut to provide security. The Israeli public, for its part, demanded an investigation of the events. The massacres at Sabra and Shatilla proved a tragic ending to the siege. As noted by a retired Israeli general, “These atrocities led to the loss of legitimacy of the entire campaign, to direct intervention by the U.S. and the U.N., and to the beginning of the Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon.”[48]

Dynamics of the Battle

The world watched for over two months as the IDF gradually tightened its tight grip on Beirut. Israel’s main aim in the siege remained constant: the expulsion of Arafat and Palestinian fighters from the city. Sharon expected that the Sunni Lebanese leadership in west Beirut would seek to avoid destruction and would therefore apply pressure on the PLO to leave. To achieve its goal, Israel resorted to diplomacy, an information campaign, military pressure, and economic strangulation. The military effort employed all three services.

The Israeli navy, though small, performed three missions during the siege. First, it imposed a naval blockade on the port of Beirut. A ring of patrol boats, gunboats, and missile boats, supported by submarines, maintained a tight naval blockade. The Reshef class was Israel’s premier ship in the blockade. Sporting a crew of forty-five, this fast patrol boat contained six Gabriel missile launchers and two 76mm guns. The Reshef boats could operate on the sea for long periods. Second, the navy threatened the Arab defenders with an amphibious landing on the beaches. A precedent had been set earlier in the campaign when, on the first evening of the war, naval boats landed forces at the Awali River north of Sidon. To avoid being outflanked from the sea, the Arab defenders deployed fighters to guard the coastline. The IDF never attempted a major sea landing. Third, the navy provided naval gunfire in conjunction with air strikes and artillery barrages. For this, the navy relied largely on the Gabriel missile and the 76 mm gun.[49] Directed by radar or optical sighting, the Gabriel missile possessed a maximum range of 38 kilometers and carried a delayed-action fuse on its 150-kilogram warhead.

The Israeli air force also played a major role in the siege of Beirut. Fixed wing aircraft conducted the air war over Beirut. F-15 Eagles and F-16 Flying Falcons generally provided cover while F-4 Phantoms, A-4 Skyhawks, the French-built Mirages, and the Israeli-made Kfirs conducted bombing runs. Israeli aircraft dropped smart munitions, cluster bombs, missiles, and rockets. Because Arab air defenses were ineffective except against helicopters, Israeli pilots approached their targets with a 30-degree dive angle and dropped their payloads at 3,000 to 4,000 feet. After an attack, an RF-4 reconnaissance aircraft would generally fly over the target area to take pictures for assessing the damage. The air force avoided using helicopters in combat roles and instead assigned them missions of transporting supplies or carrying wounded.[50]

Israel used several kinds of bombs: cluster, incendiary, and concussion. Cluster bombs maximized the killing of human beings. In this vein, the Israelis employed the American-made GBU58, MK180, M42, and M434E1. After the siege, a 13-member American ordnance team spent six weeks helping the Lebanese Army de-mine the western and southern parts of Beirut. The Americans counted 1,144 explosive devices—rockets and mines, grenades and booby traps, 256 cluster bombs, 18,500 pounds of explosives, 47,500 rounds of ammunition, and 30 gallons of chemical explosives.[51]

To the media, Israel stressed its employment of precision weapons against military targets, but general bombing also took place. As described first-hand by retired British Major Derek Cooper, “From early July the attacks from sea, land and air got intense, sustained and indiscriminate, often by night as well as in the day time; little warning was given and the creeping barrage of destruction grew as the days went by and the siege and blockade began to bite. . . the shelling and bombing was indiscriminate as building after building was destroyed from sea, land and air.”[52]

Several districts were especially hit hard. Fakhani district and the three refugees camps saw the greatest damage. The port area and Corniche Mazraa experienced less damage, but this was all relative. Virtually all the embassies and seventeen of twenty-six hospitals suffered damage. “In a city that was an armed camp, hospitals were not going to escape the contamination of their patients’ politics.”[53] The siege left the city devastated. As noted by an Israeli historian, “Come August Beirut was in shambles: running out of food and medicines; electricity cut off; and water supplies so short that inhabitants used artesian wells.”[54]

Artillery and tanks played an important role in providing ground firepower. The IDF relied on artillery as the main weapon for shelling west Beirut. Ground operations emphasized combined arms. Tanks (mainly M-60s) generally led the attack formation, with 155mm howitzers bringing up the rear, ready to be brought forward.[55] Artillery, especially the 155mm self-propelled howitzer, saw employment in a direct-fire role against buildings or strong points. The M163 Vulcan 20mm antiaircraft gun with its high elevation capability, mounted on a M-113 APC, proved extremely useful against upper-level floors in tall buildings. M-113 APCs transported troops and supplies, but the IDF understood their vulnerability to RPGs and used them sparingly as a result. Engineers, for their part, played an important role in clearing road obstacles and mines. The D-9 bulldozer was the vehicle of choice.[56]

Israeli infantry sported American small arms as well as the domestically produced Galil assault rifle. The Galil borrowed heavily from the Soviet AK47 assault rifle. The Israeli rifle had a thirty-five round magazine and a fifty-round magazine for the machine gun version. This weapon proved very effective at close range. To fight on foot in Beirut, Israeli soldiers received additional equipment: hand radios, hand grenades, rocket-propelled grenade launchers, light antitank weapons, and illumination rounds for mortars. Flak jackets helped reduce casualties, but still some 55 percent of Israeli casualties resulted from small-arms fire, many in the head or neck. Snipers proved most troublesome. Rules of engagement allowed for the application of heavy ordnance on buildings hiding Palestinians firing on Israeli troops.

PLO forces relied heavily on the AK47. They also quickly grasped the effectiveness of the RPGs in urban warfare and distributed them on a wide scale. Small mobile teams of three to six fighters formed around a single RPG; they manned the outer circle of defense against Israeli ground attacks. RPGs were most effective against M-113s, less so against tanks. Palestinians also employed Katyusha truck-mounted, multiple rocket launchers. Because the Israelis had good fields of observation, the Palestinians fired the rockets and then quickly hid the trucks in alleys, garages, and between buildings.[57]

Non-Combat Aspects

To isolate the PLO and the Syrians, Israel encouraged the civilian population to flee the city using leaflets (dropped by planes), loudspeakers, and radio broadcasts. The IDF even sent personalized flyers to the Syrian brigade, naming its commander and providing instructions for a safe passage to Damascus. Israeli soldiers kept checkpoints open for townspeople to leave. Some people returned after the cessation of the bombing. These Lebanese were afraid to leave their apartments or businesses for too long lest squatters occupy them. Many did not return. By the end of the siege, over 250,000 residents of the original 600,000 had abandoned west Beirut. Journalists especially took advantage of Israel’s open-door policy that permitted some traffic back and forth. “In the morning, we could talk with the Palestinian defenders of west Beirut. In the afternoon, we could take tea with the army that worked to destroy them.”[58]

The IDF also resorted to economic sanctions, trying to make life difficult for the people. Periodic cuts in fuel, water, and electricity were expected to persuade the people to abandon the city. Inhabitants faced severe water shortages and resorted to artesian wells. International pressures forced resumption of water and electricity for brief periods. Enterprising Christian merchants in east Beirut found ways to smuggle supplies into west Beirut. Telephones, however, were left intact. Despite the hardships, on some days women took to the beaches to sunbathe in swimsuits. People defiantly struggled to maintain some normalcy in the midst of the siege.

Israel maintained a steady information campaign for international consumption. But it was extremely difficult to put a positive spin on a siege that brought misery and death to children, women, and the elderly. The IDF could not hide this human suffering because reporters moved freely back and forth across the Green Line and could verify claims of either side. Television became an emotive source of daily reporting. On several occasions, for example, the Israelis were shown to practice misinformation. Claiming a desire to minimize civilian casualties, Israeli spokesmen stressed precision bombing methods targeting only the PLO “terrorists” and denied the use of cluster bombs. Then the truth came out that the IDF was using them. In another case, the IDF blamed Lebanese Christians for the cutting off water and electricity to west Beirut until reporters discovered Israelis helping to man the pumping stations. Israeli censors even tried to edit newsreels, so the major networks sent their material to Damascus.[59]

Israeli bombardment of west Beirut produced unforeseen political consequences. Many Lebanese welcomed the Israeli invasion, wanting to see an end to Palestinian autonomy within Lebanon. But most of these individuals turned against the IDF as the war brought significant death and destruction to the country. As early as 7 July, Nabih Berri, the head of the Shiite organization Amal, prophetically stated the future role of his Shiite community. “If the Israelis stay in Lebanon, we’ll become the new Palestinians.”[60] For the next eighteen years of Israeli occupation, the Shiite organization Hizbullah proved Israel’s main threat in Lebanon, eventually forcing the IDF to withdraw unilaterally from the country in May 2000.

Dissent against the war did emerge early in Israel, even in the army. During the third week of July, Colonel Eli Geva, a brigade commander, refused an order to fire his artillery into areas of west Beirut. He argued to his superiors that such bombardment would naturally cause numerous civilian casualties. The senior leadership relieved Geva of his command. Eventually, several hundred Israeli officers and soldiers refused to serve in Lebanon and some formed a peace organization. Of these, 170 faced trials and imprisonment. Such dissent within the military, though limited in numbers, was unprecedented in the annals of the IDF and therefore a shock to the society.[61] Siege warfare did stir the conscience of many Israelis, both civilian and military, but not enough to derail military operations.


The IDF launched Operation Peace for Galilee without cabinet approval for expanding the war to Beirut. This political constraint prevented the IDF from attempting a rapid capture of west Beirut. Determined to defeat the PLO in Beirut, Begin and Sharon adopted a strategy that avoided Israeli casualties as much as possible. Initially, both men had sought an alliance with Bashir Gemayel, hoping that he would assume the principal role in west Beirut’s capture. This proved a strategic miscalculation. When the Maronite leader refused to cooperate, Sharon slowly dragged the IDF into a siege based on a strategy of attrition, combining military pressure and economic strangulation. At times, military operations drove policy. On other occasions, policy restrained military operations.

After seventy days of siege, Arafat and the PLO surrendered owing to a combination of factors. First, the Begin government and the Israeli people possessed the will to stay the course in forcing a PLO exodus from the city. Second, the IDF enjoyed a marked superiority in numbers and technology that slowly constricted the area controlled by the PLO fighters. Israeli ground forces employed combined arms centered on the tank. Third, the PLO had become isolated diplomatically. American diplomacy essentially helped Israel attain its war aim of expelling the PLO from Beirut.

By the end of the first week of August, the PLO faced little, if any, hope of a compromise. Nevertheless, the IDF lacked a political mandate to attempt a decisive military defeat of the PLO with ground forces, and the Reagan administration would not countenance such a dramatic escalation. Taking advantage of international guarantees, Arafat finally abandoned Beirut to fight Israel another day in other places. The city of Beirut had provided enough shelter for the PLO leader to depart defeated but not destroyed.


  1. Robert Fisk, Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon (New York: Atheneum, 1990): 295.

  2. Avner Yaniv, Dilemmas of Security: Politics, Strategy, and Israeli Experience in Lebanon (New York: Oxford University Press, 1987): 145.

  3. Ariel Sharon, Warrior: An Autobiography of Ariel Sharon (New York: Touchstone, 1989): 437-444, 450-451; Avraham Tamir, A Soldier in Search of Peace: An Inside Look at Israel’s Strategy (New York: Harper & Row, 1988): 119-121; and Avi Shlaim, The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World (New York: Norton, 2000): 398. Tamir, a major general and Sharon’s military advisor at the time, attended some of the meetings.

  4. Itimar Rabinovich, The War in Lebanon, 1970-1983 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984): 121-122; Tamir, A Soldier in Search of Peace: 127; Shlaim, Iron Wall: 406.

  5. Sharon, Warrior: 457; Shlaim, Iron Wall: 405.

  6. Author, discussions with Israeli officers attending the US Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 1999-2001.

  7. Rabinovich, War for Lebanon: 134.

  8. Sharon, Warrior: 463.

  9. Sharon, Warrior: 464.

  10. Mark Heller (ed.), The Middle East Military Balance 1983 (Tel Aviv: Tel Aviv University, 1983): 12.

  11. Dov Tamari, “Military Operations in Urban Environments: The Case of Lebanon, 1982,” in Soldiers in Cities: Military Operations on Urban Terrain, edited by Michael C. Desch (Carlisle Barracks: Strategic Studies Institute, 2001): 36. For higher figures see Trevor N. Dupuy and Paul Martell, Flawed Victory: The Arab-Israeli Conflict and The 1982 War in Lebanon (Fairfax, VA: Hero Books, 1986): 86-91; Roman Gabriel, Operation Peace for Galilee: The Israeli-PLO War in Lebanon (New York: Hill and Wang, 1984): 47-54, 81, 233.

  12. Israel Shahak, “New Revelations on the 1982 Invasion of Lebanon,” Middle East International, 7 October 1994, p. 19.

  13. Tamari, “Military Operations:” 39.

  14. R. D. McLaurin and Paul A. Jureidini, Battle of Beirut, 1982 (Aberdeen, MD: U.S. Army Human Engineering Laboratory, 1986): 35.

  15. McLaurin and Jureidini, Battle of Beirut: 23-24.

  16. McLaurin and Jureidini, Battle of Beirut: 25, 48; Gabriel, Operation Peace for Galilee: 141.

  17. Rashid Khalidi, Under Siege: P.L.O. Decision-Making During the 1982 War (New York: Columbia University Press, 1986): 59.

  18. Fisk, Pity the Nation: 289.

  19. Heller, Middle East Military Balance 1983: 263-265; Gabriel, Operation Peace for Galilee: 129-130; McLaurin and Jureidini, Battle of Beirut: 20-21.

  20. McLaurin and Jureidini, Battle of Beirut: 19.

  21. Khalidi, Under Siege: 56.

  22. Tamari, “Military Operations:” 37.

  23. Discussion is based on McLaurin and Jureidini, Battle of Beirut:17-20, 29-20; The MOUT Hompage, “Operation Peace for Galilee”; and author, discussions with Israeli officers attending the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, 1999-2001.

  24. Rabinovich, War for Lebanon:139; Tamir, A Soldier in Search of Peace: 132.

  25. Fisk, Pity the Nation: 215.

  26. Dupuy and Martell, Flawed Victory: 152-153. Others have echoed this assessment. See Khalidid, Under Siege: 55; Anthony H. Cordesman and Abraham R. Wagner, The Lessons of Modern War, I: The Arab-Israeli Conflicts, 1973-1989 (Boulder: Westview Press, 1990): 144, 151.

  27. Khalidi, Under Siege: 47.

  28. Rabinovich, War for Lebanon: 139.

  29. Cordesman and Wagner, The Lessons of Modern War, I: 144.

  30. Sharon, Warrior: 476.

  31. Dupuy and Martell, Flawed Victory: 150.

  32. Khalidi, Under Siege: 118.

  33. Khalidi, Under Siege: 112.

  34. Ze’ev Schiff and Ehud Ya’ari, Israel’s War in Lebanon (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984): 207.

  35. Martin van Creveld, The Sword and the Olive: A Critical History of the Israeli Defense Force (New York: Public Affairs, 1998): 298.

  36. James F. Clarity, “Antiwar Minority Remains Vocal and Visible and Small,” New York Times, 8 August 1982, p. A12; Yaniv, Dilemmas of Security: 127-128.

  37. Khalidi, Under Siege: 148-154.

  38. Thomas L. Friedman, From Beirut to Jerusalem (New York: Anchor Books, 1989): 147; and Khalidi, Under Siege: 115-116.

  39. The account draws heavily upon the following sources: New York Times, 1 June to 21 August 1982; Gabriel, Operation Peace for Galilee: 139-158; Schiff and Ya’ari, Israel’s War in Lebanon: 195-229; Dupuy and Martell, Flawed Victory: 155-163; Cordesman and Wagner, Lessons of Modern War, I: 146-147; and McLaurin and Jureidini, Battle for Beirut: 43-45.

  40. James M. Markham, “Israelis Keep Reminding Beirut That Siege Is On,” New York Times, 5 July 1982, p. A4.

  41. Gabriel, Operation Peace for Galilee: 146-147.

  42. For a flow of the siege in the month of August, Gabriel, Operation Peace for Galilee: 151-154; Dupuy and Martell, Flawed Victory: 160; Cordesman and Wagner, The Lessons of Modern War, I: 147; Khalidi, Under Siege: 96; and Michael Jansen, The Battle of Beirut: Why Israel Invaded Lebanon (Boston, Mass: South End Press, 1982): 39-64. Also see the numerous articles in New York Times over the period 1 to 21 August 1982.

  43. Khalidi, Under Siege: 174.

  44. Schiff and Ya’ari, Israel’s War in Lebanon: 225-227; Gabriel, Operation Peace for Galilee: 158; Yaniv, Dilemmas of Security: 147; and Shlaim, Iron Wall: 413.

  45. Dupuy and Martell, Flawed Victory: 179.

  46. “Lebanese Add 1,200 to Beirut Siege Toll,” Washington Post, 2 December 1982; John Yemma, “New Figures Emerge on the Cost of Lives in Israel’s War in Lebanon,” Christian Science Monitor, 21 December 1982; Franklin P. Lamb, Reason Not the Need: Eyewitness Chronicles of Israel’s War in Lebanon (Nottingham, England: Spokesman, 1984): 342.

  47. Gabriel, Operation Peace for Galilee: 169.

  48. Tamari, “Military Operations:” 51-52.

  49. McLaurin and Jureidini, Battle of Beirut: 62.

  50. McLaurin and Jureidini, Battle of Beirut: 67.

  51. David Zucchino, “In Weary Beirut, the Litter of War Kills, Too,” Philadelphia Inquirer, 23 January 1983.

  52. Lamb, Reason Not the Need: 338.

  53. Fisk, Pity the Nation: 286.

  54. Van Creveld, Sword and the Olive: 297.

  55. McLaurin and Jureidini, Battle for Beirut: 39.

  56. McLaurin and Jureidini, Battle for Beirut: 55.

  57. McLaurin and Jureidini, Battle for Beirut: 33-34; The MOUT Hompage, “Operation Peace for Galilee”.

  58. Fisk, Pity the Nation: 300.

  59. Fisk, Pity the Nation: 286-289; Lamb, Reason Not the Need: 432, 455-456.

  60. Khalidi, Under Siege: 88.

  61. Van Creveld, Sword and the Olive: 299.


Few English sources provide a detailed treatment of tactical and technological events of the siege. Consequently, this study has given more attention to the strategic dimensions.

  • Dupuy, Trevor and Paul Martell. Flawed Victory: The Arab-Israeli Conflict and the 1982 War in Lebanon. Fairfax, VA: Hero Books, 1986. Little on the siege; better on the military events leading to the encirclement.

  • Fisk, Robert. Pity the Nation: The Abduction of Lebanon. New York: Atheneum, 1990. The best account of life inside Beirut by a reporter who witnessed the siege.

  • Friedman, Thomas L. From Beirut to Jerusalem. New York: Anchor Books, 1989. Award winning book with surprisingly very little on the siege even though the author filed daily reports on the siege for the New York Times.

  • Gabriel, Roman. Operation Peace for Galilee: The Israeli-PLO War in Lebanon. New York: Hill and Wang, 1984. Offers a succinct but superficial chapter on the siege from the Israeli perspective.

  • Jansen, Michael. The Battle of Beirut: Why Israel Invaded Lebanon. Boston, Mass.: South End Press, 1982. Good overview of the siege based on quotes taken from various newspapers in the English language.

  • Khalidi, Rashid. Under Siege: P.L.O. Decision-Making During the 1982 War. New York: Columbia University Press, 1986. Provides insight into the Palestinian resistance to the Israeli siege. A must read for balance.

  • McLaurin, R. D. and Paul A. Jureidini. Battle of Beirut, 1982. Aberdeen, MD: U.S. Army Human Engineering Laboratory, 1986. Most detailed treatment of tactical, technological, and doctrinal aspects of the siege.

  • MOUT Home Page “Operation Peace for Galilee”. A list of lessons from the Israeli siege. Complements the study by McLaurin and Jureidini.

  • New York Times, 13 June to 21 August 1982. Excellent daily coverage of the siege. Several good maps depicting Israeli attacks into the city.

  • Schiff, Ze’ev and Ehud Ya’ari. Israel’s War in Lebanon. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1984. A scathing treatment of the Israeli invasion. Schiff is a well-respected military journalist in Israel.

  • Tamir, Avraham. A Soldier in Search of Peace: An Inside Look at Israel’s Strategy. New York: Harper and Row, 1988. Senior Israeli general who attended several important meetings before and during the war.

  • Tamari, Dov. “Military Operations in Urban Environments: The Case of Lebanon.” In Soldiers in Cities: Military Operations on Urban Terrain, edited by Michael C. Desch. Carlisle Barracks: Strategic Studies Center, 2001. Pp. 29-55. Interesting strategic-operational analysis of the siege.

  • Van Creveld, Martin. The Sword and the Olive: A Critical History of the Israeli Defense Force. New York: Public Affairs, 1998. Chapter on Lebanon is best short summary of the entire war and the subsequent Israeli occupation from 1982 to 1998.

  • Yaniv, Avner. Dilemmas of Security: Politics, Strategy, and Israeli Experience in Lebanon. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987. A critical, detailed treatment of the war from the perspective of Israeli politics.


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